Costa money laundering scandal 'tip of iceberg'
14 March 2005, MADRID-Spain's attorney general said a EUR 600m international money laundering scandal centring on a Costa del Sol lawyer may be the "tip of the iceberg". Fernando Del Valle, the head of a law firm in the Spanish coastal resort of Marbella, was one of 12 people summoned to the offices of investigating judge Miguel Angel Torres into what Spanish authorities said was the country's biggest-ever money laundering scam.
14 March 2005
MADRID-Spain's attorney general said a EUR 600m international money laundering scandal centring on a Costa del Sol lawyer may be the "tip of the iceberg".
Fernando Del Valle, the head of a law firm in the Spanish coastal resort of Marbella, was one of 12 people summoned to the offices of investigating judge Miguel Angel Torres into what Spanish authorities said was the country's biggest-ever
money laundering scam.
Police, identifying links between the firm and organised crime, arrested 41 people from six countries in connection with the affair Friday following a 10-month investigation nicknamed "Operation White Whale", which relied heavily on close cooperation from police around Europe.
Among those arrested in the swoop, involving Interpol and Europol, were people from France, Finland, Morocco, Russia, Spain and Ukraine, among them several lawyers and three notaries, according to Spain's interior ministry.
So far, the judge has detained five in 'preventative custody'.
Police consider Del Valle the architect of the racket on Spain's southern Costa del Sol worth some EUR 250m.
According to the Spanish daily El Pais, the group could have laundered some 600m, without specifying how it had obtained the figure.
According to El Pais' "police say the true figure could be three or four times greater" than the initial estimated sum
of money involved.
Spanish authorities believe Del Valle set up a network of property and front companies whose traces disappear into offshore accounts held in the British dependent territory of Gibraltar, press reports said.
Criminal organisations would launder money gained in prostitution, drug-trafficking and luxury car theft through the companies, taking advantage of the booming property and construction sector on the southern Costa del Sol around Marbella.
A number of bank accounts were frozen and two private planes, a boat and 42 luxury cars were impounded during the police operation.
The Spanish interior ministry has said it suspects large sums of money had been diverted from the Russian oil giant Yukos and laundered through the network, a claim Yukos swiftly denied.
"This is nonsense," Yukos spokesman Alexander Shadrin told the Russian radio station Echo Moscow on Saturday.
"The next thing they'll say is that we were laundering money on Mars. That is my official comment."
Candido Conde-Pumpido, Spain's attorney general, said: "This is just the tip of the iceberg of the silent invasion of foreign mafias."
Sources close to the case said that Del Valle and a secretary would be questioned on Monday.
Torres questioned then released a total of 14 other employees from his firm. One secretary was freed on bail of EUR 6,000.
Del Valle's lawyer, Francisco Javier Nunez, said late on Sunday afternoon that all who had responded to the judge's summons had been released, save for Del Valle himself and a secretary.
The mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yague, lamented that the controversy was giving a bad image to the city, situated in the heart of what has for decades been dubbed the "Costa del Crime" for its reputation of attracting insalubrious figures on the run from justice in their homelands.
"This is a highly unfortunate affair for the people of Marbella, it gives the city such a negative image," Yague told Spanish radio, having earlier told reporters that "people only talk about the city to have a go at it over something negative."
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news